Friday, 31 July 2009

UK National Whale and Dolphin Watch Event

The Sea Watch Foundation National Whale and Dolphin Watch ended last week end. The aim of the event (in its 7th year) is to provide a snap shot of whale and dolphin sightings around the Uk during the event. the secondary aim is to raise awareness and encourage people to take an active role in monitoring UK whales and dolphins. This event supplements the ongoing monitoring that takes place all year, co-ordinated through the 35 regional groups.

Sadly this year (as Sussex regional Co-ordinator for the Sea Watch Foundation) I was unable to organise a manned watch site during the event. As always I have encouraged my volunteers and requested sightings through the press so we may still get further results. As with last year, much of the week was plagued by poor weather.

We did sadly receive details of a dead dolphin (probably common, I am still awaiting images to confirm this) at the mouth of the Cuckmere River. Only live sighting was a probable bottlenose dolphin at 12:35, 25/7/09 near Cambrian wreck buoy, 50/44/42N, 001/03/40W in the Solent.

For further information about the event or UK whales and dolphins in general, check out the Sea Watch Foundation website at

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Satellite tagged seals

The satellite tagged common seals are still sending signals and providing some very useful data that will help us understand how they use the Solent area and help us provide better protection. The tags will continue to transmit until sometime in August when the seals moult and the tags will detach. (See earlier posts)

The tagged seals provided the basis for another course for the Gifted and Talented Programme in West Sussex. This course features Sussex Sea Mammals and as usual we used the life sized inflatable dolphin.
The pupils (aged 11 to 12 years) learned about the natural history and adaptations of sea sea mammals. They also compared the adaptations of the fully aquatic bottlenose dolphin with the semi-aquatic common seal.
(Seal behaviour activity)

This information was then used by the pupils to decide what information we would need to know about seal in order to protect them.

They watched a presentation on how and why we tagged the seals and used all this information to help analyse the movements of the seals, displayed on Google Earth. The pupils were provided with a sheet of questions to help and guide them with this analysis.

The pupils were looking for data about how the seals used the area that could be used to help protect them. The pupils discovered that the 5 tagged seals moved around quite differently using different areas that overlapped. They also discovered two possible haul out areas and two possible foraging areas

We also investigated the threats to common seals in the UK, over 50% of the UK population has declined in recent years. As part of this discussion the pupils undertook a food web activity used to explain bioaccumilation - how pollutants build up and are transported to top predators through food chains.